On the blog:
- A review of a picture book biography of Olympic runner Lewis Tewanima
- A slice of life about parenting a child with trauma
I read a Goodreads review of Michael Cho’s graphic novel, Shoplifter, which called it “inconsequential,” and that word has really colored my thinking about the book. It’s gorgeous and beautifully drawn with a surprising and lovely pink and black color palette. But it was hard for me to care very much about the main character, Corinna, and her small problems. She’s an English major who had big dreams of writing the next great novel but instead finds herself five years after graduation still stuck in an advertising agency job she thought was temporary. She hates her job; she goes home to an empty apartment–well, empty except for Anais, her cranky, vocal cat; she has no real friends, no real connections. I suppose you could argue that her small problems are actually very big existential problems, at least if you’re privileged and urban. To make herself feel something, Corinna shoplifts magazines from her local convenience store. It’s such a small theft that she herself views it as almost inconsequential. The ending wraps everything up with a neat, tidy bow, and Corinna is rewarded, to some degree anyway, when she really hasn’t gone through any character transformation. I don’t know. It was a quick read (under half an hour, I think) and a beautiful book, but I wish there had been more substance.
The picture book reading continued in my house, much to my delight. These were my favorites:
I was crazy about I Didn’t Do My Homework Because… written by Davide Cali and illustrated by Benjamin Chaud. It’s a very short, simple little book with a different bizarre and wonderful homework excuses on each page and concludes with a metafictional moment where our protagonist’s teacher explains that she doesn’t believe any of his excuses because she has read this book too. Cali’s writing is a strong mentor text, and Chaud’s illustrations are delightfully whimsical.
I have a feeling I must have read Roger Duvoisin’s Veronica as a child. Veronica is a hippopotamus who wants to be conspicuous, even famous, but in her mud wallow with all her big family of hippos, she doesn’t stand out at all. So she takes herself off to a city where she manages to be very conspicuous indeed. Duvoisin’s illustrations are a huge part of the appeal here. Alternating between black and white and full color illustrations, Duvoisin manages to create a whole believable and delightful world.
Adele Sansone’s The Little Green Goose is such a heartfelt story that was perfect for us this week. It’s about a goose who longs to be a dad. He finds an egg that he coddles and cares for until the most precious little green goose hatches from it. Only the goose is actually a dinosaur who eventually notices that he doesn’t look like his goose dad. He sets off to find his true parents, only to discover that the dad who loves him and takes care of him IS his real dad. What?! An adoptive parent can also be a REAL parent?! My regular readers will understand exactly why I loved reading this story to my son this week.
And then there is Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s I Wish You More, which is perfection. It’s a series of whimsical, lovely, quirky, and deep wishes for a much-loved child. Another book that was important for me to share with my son this week.
Rod Clement’s Just Another Ordinary Day describes a perfectly ordinary day in the life of Amanda–only, as the cover suggests, what’s ordinary for Amanda is pretty extraordinary. The juxtaposition of text and illustration is hilarious, as the text is so perfunctory and the illustrations are so outlandish.
I was so pleasantly surprised by Gus and Me: The Story of My Granddad and My First Guitar, written by Keith Richards (yes, that Keith Richards) and illustrated by his daughter, Theodora Richards. It’s the story of Richards’s relationship with his grandfather and how he got his first guitar and became a musician. The writing is strong and eloquent, and the illustrations are charming and evocative.